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Becoming the Healthiest Man Alive

A.J. Jacobs spent two years learning (and living) every aspect of fitness.

The Little Things

Jacobs’s odyssey did result in practical health and fitness sweet spots, not just the over-the-top consideration of swallowing every piece of health advice out there. “There are small changes you can make that have a big impact on your health. You don’t necessarily need to go to the extremes like I did,” he says. One such extreme? Groups who so fiercely advocate intense food-chewing that they’re dubbed “chewdaists.” But within many of the excessive arguments are plain truths: “Something as simple as chewing your food—we have forgotten how to chew, and that is making us eat faster, which makes us eat more, which makes us fat,” he says. Jacobs was also heartened to learn that going to the gym for two hours a day wasn’t strictly necessary. Time-crunched folks can focus their energy on superfast, super-hard workouts, as well. “You sprint for 30 seconds as hard as you can, then you rest for 30 seconds, and you repeat several times. And you can be done with an aerobic workout in 20 minutes and it’s as good for you as going at a leisurely pace for 45 minutes or an hour,” Jacobs says. “So I love that, that’s manageable.”

Who Do You Trust?

Rifling through the bountifully available expertise, Jacobs was bound to encounter contradictions. He writes early on: “Our brains are unduly drawn to whatever yesterday’s study revealed—Look at that! Bacon IS healthy—especially if the conclusion is surprising and counterintuitive and delicious.” Which begged the question, “Which of America’s ten thousand nutrition experts should I listen to?” Jacobs did come to trust some fundamentals. “A lot of what we know, scientists agree on. The stuff about diet and exercise and all that, there’s a lot of agreement,” he says. “I think sometimes people overplay the controversies and ignore that we know a lot of stuff that is healthy, and what is not.” He’s confident that even in the face of unknowns like scarred hearts and worn-down joints and muscles, scientists will never flip-flop hard enough to deem exercise a bad thing. “And I looked, because I was like, ‘Hey, maybe I can not exercise and be the healthiest man alive,’” Jacobs says. “But no, the basics are gonna stay the same—that you need to eat whole foods, you need a lot of sleep, you can’t stress out, and you do need to keep moving. The sedentary life is a killer. Those will always stay, I don’t see those being overturned in any way in our future.” NEXT: Getting motivated to move >>

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